Discussing one’s salary is often difficult. There can be a power imbalance that is difficult to navigate and we’ve been taught, intentionally or not, to only rarely talk about money.
That all said, discussing your salary with an employer is essential to get paid what you deserve. Today, we’ve gathered some helpful salary questions to help guide the discussion and increase the odds you can land a raise.
Keep reading to learn more.
In this article
Question #1: How Well Is This Company Doing?
Some might at first think this question is out of place. After all, it does not reference one’s salary or benefits at any point. However, this question is going to be key to guiding the rest of the discussion.
You are going to have a harder time getting a raise or better benefits the worse your company is doing. This makes sense; raises and benefits packages cost your employer money so, by extension, they need money to make them happen.
This does not mean you have to give up if the company is not doing well. What it means is that you have an uphill battle. You’re going to have to convince your employer that you’re worth giving a raise to as other parts of the company lag behind.
As is going to come up several times in this article, you’re going to have to demonstrate your value. Even if other elements of the company aren’t performing, prove that you are.
The good news is that if your company is doing well, you have an easier game ahead. An employer has a much harder time facing your salary negotiation questions when you know they have some money to give.
In any case, ask this question having a vague idea of the answer. If your employer claims the company is doing worse than it is, knowing that will allow you to make some counterpoints that may prove useful.
Question #2: How Well Am I Performing?
This is another essential salary expectations question that you need an answer to. You must determine how your employer, and anyone who controls your ability to get a raise, views your performance.
Having this question on this list might be “cheating” in that, in an ideal world, you may not want to ask your employer this question. It’s better to have a gauge on how they feel without asking to their face.
Regardless, what you really need are two pieces of information. The first is how well you’re performing. The second is how well the person you’re talking to thinks you’re performing.
These are two pieces of information that often overlap but almost never completely. It’s rare an employer understands with perfect accuracy how an employee is contributing to a company.
Your goal is going to be to guide your employer towards having the most positive view of your performance possible. You, again, must demonstrate your value.
This matters most if they have a more negative view of your performance than reality reflects. This should signal it’s time to prove to them you’re a benefit.
Talk to them about what you’ve done and maybe bring metrics if you can find them. The more direct you can show your work has helped, the more praise and quality reports on your work there are, the better you look.
Question #3: I’m Being Paid $X, and I Was Wondering How You Reached That Number?
Every employee should have a rough idea of what they’re worth. While it isn’t possible to know your exact value, you can estimate it based on your position, education, and experience.
The truth is that many employers are bad, intentionally or not, at keeping an employee’s salary in line with their actual value.
Many people are familiar with stories of people entering at one wage, seeing occasional mild raises, and then learning a new, younger employee in the same position makes more than them.
Now, on occasion, this is for a reason. Someone who is younger may still have more experience or better education. More likely, though, they’re either the beneficiary of new company policy or a better negotiator than you.
Knowing what you’re worth (and keeping up to date on your value based on modern economics) empowers you to ensure you’re paid well.
For employees who are young or have less education, keep in mind this does not mean you can’t get a raise. Instead, you need to prove your worth elsewhere (most often with quality, productive work).
Question #4: What is Our Overtime Policy?
Working overtime is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it signals you may be working quite hard. On the other, you get a significant pay bump as you do so.
Contrary to what many think, many salary workers are entitled to overtime pay. That said, you should still ask your place of employment what their specific policy is on the manner.
For example, overtime pay is not a legal requirement in the case of holidays. At the same time, many companies offer overtime rates for employees who work those days.
You should also keep aware that some jobs are exempt from overtime pay. If you’re not sure whether your job is exempt, check applicable law to be sure.
It is not unheard of for some employers to fail to pay overtime when they are required by law to do so. In this case, you may wish to contact a lawyer and explore your options to be compensated for your work.
An employer could still choose to pay you overtime even if they are not required but this is somewhat unusual.
Question #5: Do We Have Any Deferred Compensation Strategies in Place?
While many employees aren’t familiar with the term “deferred compensation,” most are familiar with some of the things which fall under that umbrella.
For example, 401(k)s and 403(b)s are both examples of deferred compensation. In essence, deferred compensation is the taking of some of your wages now and instead having them payout later.
This may sound like a disadvantage to an employee but it can be beneficial for various tax reasons. Deferred compensation allows you to avoid recognizing income in the current year, and instead defer that income to a future year.
This can result in thousands of dollars in saving if the deferment keeps you below certain income thresholds in a given year. It can be of massive benefit to employees in higher income brackets.
Deferred compensation can be complicated for small employers to navigate. If either you or they feel out of their depth, contact a company specializing in these types of plans for help.
Question #6: How Much Do My Fellow Employees Make?
This is a question you more often than not cannot ask your employer. If you do, they may be put off and almost certainly won’t answer it regardless. Many employers keep that sort of information private.
Among older readers, this question may seem inappropriate. Many people have been taught this sort of information should be kept private.
The good news is that this narrative has started to fade. Knowing what your fellow employees make empowers you. It allows you to know if someone is being cheated or getting unfair treatment, yourself included.
It is not illegal to discuss with your co-workers what you make or ask them what they make. In fact, your employer cannot ban such conversation. Keep in mind, however, nobody is obligated to answer you either.
This information is empowering in the way unionizing is. As a collective group, you can determine if unfair wage practices are taking place.
One common issue is one we discussed earlier. Older workers are sometimes shocked to learn new hires make more (sometimes much more) than they do. It never occurs to them to even ask about the topic.
Question #7: How Can I Offer Even More Value?
Depending on your work, there may be a more precise way to ask this question, but the point is to ask how you can be worth more. What tasks or responsibilities can you take up to justify a higher wage?
In many ways, this is much like asking an employer for a promotion but with less weight. In essence, you are saying you can handle more work but, in taking on that work, want more pay.
This question won’t work in all circumstances. For instance, many lower-tier jobs are simple enough that there may not be much room to grow in terms of responsibilities. It also won’t play well if you haven’t been around long.
However, for employees who have gained some trust and are in roles with many facets to them, it can be a powerful question. It also isn’t too aggressive; it feels like a trade offer rather than just a demand for better pay.
Question #8: Can I Have a Raise?
Up until now, the questions we’ve mentioned you should ask an employer directly implied you’re looking for a raise, but never said as much. At some point, you need to ask directly.
This is one of the tougher questions, on an emotional level, to get out. There is a great deal riding on the answer and you’re going to be anxious.
This is where a great deal of what you should already know will come into play. To come in with a strong hand, know:
- How much you are worth
- How much you and others in your position are making
- How much can the company afford to pay you
- How much your boss thinks you add to the company
Asking for a raise can’t come off as begging for money. It needs to be a calm conversation where you try and prove to your employer that you deserve to be paid more not on a moral level but a logical, economic one.
Have a number in mind when asking for a raise. It’s okay to aim higher than average but don’t ask for a number too high. It can make you look like you didn’t do any research or overly value yourself.
You also need to know what your cutoff is. Will you accept not being given a raise? Can you be negotiated down?
There is power in being willing to talk away from a job if they don’t give you a raise. However, that’s a nuclear option. If it doesn’t work, you’re out of a job.
Question #9: How Can I Prove Myself?
When all is said and done, a conversation about salary can put your employer on edge. Either someone who they’re used to having power over convinced them to pay them more or they know you’re unhappy having been denied a raise.
In either case, asking how you can prove yourself to them can help offset the tension. It makes the conversation feel less combative.
If you’ve got your raise, it shows you’re dedicated to your work. Much like asking how you can add value to the company, it proves you’re willing to earn this positive change.
If you’ve failed to get a raise, this question shows you don’t blame your employer but want to know how to earn the raise you want.
Good Salary Questions Help You Control the Conversation
Most employers don’t want to pay you more. If they can manage it, they will deflect salary conversations away from giving you a raise. The salary questions above help you keep in control and raise the chances you get what you want.
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